Uproar over bank probe senator's property deal link
THE much-anticipated banking inquiry is already mired in controversy before it has even begun, with a bitter row over who will sit on it.
Heated exchanges broke out in the Seanad over the inclusion of Fianna Fail senator Marc MacSharry who was accused of having a conflict of interest because of his indirect involvement in a doomed property deal in Sligo, which has been subject to High Court litigation.
Mr MacSharry was selected for the banking inquiry on Wednesday night by a Seanad select committee, but Fine Gael Seanad leader Maurice Cummins claimed the Fianna Fail senator is unsuitable for inclusion.
Mr Cummins told the House that he had received information that Mr MacSharry could have a conflict of interest.
After the House was suspended three times amid rowdy scenes, Mr Cummins withdrew the remark.
Responding to Mr Cummins' claim, Mr MacSharry said: "The incident is bizarre and I found the comments appalling.
"I am used to political charges and giving as good as I get, but this was different – what was said, and how it was said."
The Irish Independent has learned that Labour senator Ivana Bacik is referring the matter to the Seanad's oversight body to seek legal advice on the controversy.
She emailed the Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) to call on it to seek legal advice to lay out what exactly are the terms of eligibility for inclusion on the inquiry panel.
The Government suffered an embarrassment when it failed to get its own nominee, Labour's Susan O'Keeffe, on the inquiry and it will not have a majority on the nine-man committee, which meets for the first time next week.
The Seanad had to be suspended yesterday after a row broke out when Mr Cummins mentioned the possible conflict of interest. Mr MacSharry then asked Mr Cummins to explain.
Mr Cummins did not name the conflict of interest.
Mr MacSharry's credibility is being called into question because of his former directorship of a company that has been embroiled in litigation since 2010 over a doomed multi-million property deal.
Allegations of fraud and of alleged "secret profits" involving the purchase of the Saehan Media site at Hazelwood, Sligo, were aired before the Commercial Court in Dublin.
The allegations were made against an accountant and a quantity surveyor.
The site, on the shores of Lough Gill, was purchased by Foresthaze Developments, of which former EU Commissioner Ray MacSharry was chairman of the company now in liquidation.
Marc MacSharry held 6pc of a shareholding in Foresthaze.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr MacSharry denied that he had any direct involvement in a failed property syndicate and was not a defendant in the litigation.
He said he and his father and his brother had borrowings in relation to Foresthaze of up to €1m, but they have since been paid back.